Prisons Bill 2015: Committee and Remaining Stages

Sections 1 to 5, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 6

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 7, between lines 30 and 31, to insert the following:

"(9) No place of detention shall henceforth be titled St. Patrick's".

I welcome the Minister of State. While I am aware that he said he was here for the day, I hope I am not the cause of delaying him unnecessarily. This amendment is about the closure of St. Patrick's Institution which, of course, was warmly welcomed after criticisms of the institution dating back to Fr. Flanagan in the 1940s.

More recently, we have heard criticisms from Judge Michael Reilly, Ms Emily Logan and the Ombudsman for Children, Dr. Niall Muldoon. I commend the Minister for abolishing such an institution and not having anything more in this country based on the borstal.

The amendment provides that no place of detention should henceforth be called or titled "St. Patrick's". The Department is doing away with this model and I fully support it in abolishing it. It has taken so long. The institution was based in Clonmel in 1946. Then in the 1950s it was moved to a prison in Mountjoy. Now, it is finally being shut down with universal support.

The name "St. Patrick" was invoked sometime in the 1950s. It had been called a borstal before it moved back to Clonmel after the Second World War. The Army had been in the building up to that point. Invoking St. Patrick was an attempt to disguise what actually happened in these institutions. All the critics, dating back to Fr. Flanagan, have described the beating of children, the deprival of clothing and visits and all sorts of abuse. It was given some kind of respectability by invoking the national saint and that was particularly inappropriate. St. Patrick was kidnapped in another jurisdiction at 16 years of age. He was held as a slave in this country for six years and forced to work without reward. Then he escaped. There is some dreadful irony in using that title to lend respectability to an institution which we are now abolishing. I hope it never features again in the name of any institution of detention.

It is an unfortunate title, to put it mildly, given what happened to the gentleman concerned. There is nothing to be said in favour of what happened there, given all the criticisms during all the years. I have in mind the statements from the Ombudsman for Children and Judge Michael Reilly, as well as earlier criticisms. Lest there be any possibility that the national saint could ever be invoked in this way, let us end the use of the name in a place of detention. I have no wish to delay the Minister of State further. That is the purpose of the amendment.

On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, I thank Senator Sean D. Barrett for bringing forward this amendment. It arose from an interesting point he made on Second Stage regarding the appropriateness of attaching the name "St. Patrick's" to a place where young persons were detained in view of the circumstances under which St. Patrick had been reputedly brought to Ireland and subjected to forced labour.

Senators will appreciate the Government is fully committed to and will very shortly achieve, finally, the closing of St. Patrick's Institution. Accordingly, it is now a matter of when, rather than if, St. Patrick's Institution will be closed. Subsequently, there will be an end to the practice of detaining children in adult prison facilities.

While recommending in 2013 that St. Patrick's Institution be closed, the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention also recommended that the name "St. Patrick's" be consigned to history. The Bill will do this by providing not only for the complete closing of St. Patrick's Institution but also through the general removal of references to St. Patrick's Institution from the Statute Book. In particular, the Bill will repeal all the legislative provisions that specifically enable the courts to order the detention of young persons in St. Patrick's Institution.

The term "place of detention" has a specific meaning in prisons legislation. Section 2 of the Prisons Act 1970 provides that the Minister for Justice may, for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of offenders, provide places other than prisons for the detention of sentenced persons. These places are known and referred to as "places of detention". Wheatfield Place of Detention, as it is now called, is one such place. Therefore, the Senator's amendment would not prevent a children's detention school or prison from being given the name "St. Patrick's". More generally, I imagine Senators understand the attachment of the name "St. Patrick's Institution" to the premises which is the subject of the Bill was of its time and would not happen today. In the circumstances, while she fully appreciates the sentiments behind the proposed amendment, the Minister does not believe it is necessary or that it should be included in the Bill.

I thank the Minister of State and the Minister for the reply. In the spirit of things, we are ad idem. The institution, the name and so on will not recur. I wish them well and every success in these reforms.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 6 agreed to.
Sections 7 to 23, inclusive, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment and received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

It is an historic day for children's rights, juvenile justice and the progressive reform of Ireland's penal policy. However, I wish to raise a note of caution. There will be a perception that the detention of children in adult prisons has ended. I reiterate my concerns with regard to the 17 year old children remaining in Wheatfield Place of Detention. However, I support and welcome entirely the complete closure of St. Patrick's Institution. I commend the Government. In particular, I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality who previously served as Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I also commend the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly. They have worked together to ensure this is happening today. I commend all of them for their work in this area.

I agree with what Senator Jillian van Turnhout said. We are ending the detention of children in prisons. It is also the day when the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, has signed the enactment order ending the chastisement of children. It is a good day for people in this House, in particular, for Senators Ivana Bacik and Jillian van Turnhout who have campaigned for children's rights. The have attained two notable aims in one day, reward for their labours and something worth acknowledging. I also thank the Minister State for his role in all of this.

I echo what others have said. This is an historic and welcome day. It is long overdue. At last we have seen the Government move on this issue after years of inaction by successive Governments in the face of mounting criticisms from international sources and successive inspectors of prisons. It is a proud day and one we can be thankful for. It marks a new step in our penal policy and, as I said on Second Stage, our position on children's rights.

I thank the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald; the Minister of State, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, who also had a role, as did the officials who worked on the Bill. The Bill finally marks the closure of St. Patrick's Institution and the end of the practice of detaining children in prisons. It is most welcome, especially on the day when we have also seen the order on reasonable chastisement finally signed into law. Let us hope we see more progress on children's rights in the short time left under the Government. I think we may do so. I commend all those who have worked on this issue, including Senator Jillian van Turnhout.

On behalf of my colleague, Senator Denis O'Donovan, my party's justice spokesperson, I welcome the passing of the Bill. I very much welcome the fact that St. Patrick's Institution will be closed. I note that it is over three decades since a committee chaired by Mr. T. K. Whitaker recommended that it be closed. I am glad that this day has eventually arrived.

I agree with Senator Jillian van Turnhout. Unfortunately, if we think this will bring to an end young people being incarcerated, it will not. We very much look forward to the day when it will happen, while accepting the fact that it must happen in some cases as a last resort. Perhaps we might consider putting more resources into education programmes such as Youthreach which conducts very successful programmes throughout the country, as well as and other support services. It might result in young people not necessarily being detained at the State's pleasure.

I welcome the Bill.

We are making a little history today. I thank all of the Members who contributed to the debate on the Bill. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and I are grateful for the support of Senators for the proposals contained in the Bill.

The Prisons Bill finally delivers on the calls to close St. Patrick's Institution which have been made for the past 30 years. The Government's unprecedented programme of reform in closing St. Patrick's Institution and developing national children detention facilities at Oberstown will allow young people sentenced to detention to be placed in a secure environment that will offer them a better chance, as stated in the Children Act 2001, to take their place in the community as persons who observe the law and are capable of making a positive and productive contribution to society.

Before concluding, I advise the House that the Minister intends to table amendments to the Bill in the Dáil to provide for two further matters. The amendments are linked with High Court proceedings in connection with prison-related matters. Unfortunately, it was not possible for the drafting of the amendments to be completed in time for their inclusion in the Bill, as published, or for them to be tabled on Committee Stage. The first arises from the judgment of the High Court earlier this year in the case of Mr. O v. the Minister for Justice and Equality. In that case the High Court considered the legality of the temporary release of a prisoner who had been subject to a deportation order and deported immediately after his release from prison. The High Court decided that section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1960, which governs the temporary release of prisoners, did not permit the temporary release of prisoners who were subject to deportation orders for the purposes of their deportation or removal from the State. Given the practical implications of the Mr. O judgment for the deportation process, the Minister believes a clear legislative basis is needed to allow non-national prisoners to be taken from prison by members of An Garda Síochána or immigration officers for the purposes of giving effect to deportation orders under the Immigration Act 1999 or removal orders under the European Communities (Free Movement of Persons) (No. 2) Regulations 2006. She, therefore, proposes to bring forward an amendment to make new and specific provision for this purpose.

Second, arising from an issue that has emerged in recent High Court proceedings, the Minister considers it appropriate to bring forward a technical amendment relating to warrants issued by courts in Dublin for the committal of persons to prison. Dublin District Court committal warrants are addressed to An Garda Síochána in accordance with the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851. However, District Court Rules permit committal warrants in Dublin to be addressed directly to the governor of the prison to which a person is to be committed. It has always been thought that this was permitted under the 1851 Act and the courts have operated on that basis. However, in a judgment in the recent case of Grant v. Governor of Cloverhill Prison the High Court judge expressed the view that the relevant provision of the District Court Rules might be inconsistent with the 1851 Act. As this opens up the prospect of uncertainty in the legal position, the Minister proposes to table an amendment to the Bill in the Dáil to declare that the committal warrant issued by the District Court in Dublin can be addressed to the governor of a prison. This is the position that has been taken to apply in Dublin for many years.

The Prisons Bill is expected to complete all Stages in the Dáil on Monday and I understand arrangements will be made for the Bill to be returned to this House later next week in order that it can complete its passage through both Houses and be signed into law by the end of the year.

Question put and agreed to.